The Eight We Had To Have?

This blog addresses a single topic: amongst the eight teams that won't be taking part in the weekend's festivities, are there any that can legitimately claim that they should be?

In short: I don't think so, though the Roos do have a prima facie case.

Exhibit A: a summary of the bottom 8 teams' performances against the finalists.

None of the non-finalists defeated finalists during the season even close to half the time. In fact, amongst the eight of them they mustered only 9.5 wins from 44 games during the second half of the season.

Essendon has the best overall record, 5 wins and 9 losses, but four of the five wins came in the first 10 rounds of the season, after which the Dons went 1 and 6 for the remainder.

The Dons do have some justification for feeling a little aggrieved, however, in that they faced teams from the top 8 on 14 occasions, which is twice more than any other team in the competition. But even if you swapped two or three of their tougher fixtures for more winnable encounters and if you assume that they won them all, they still fall short of the 44 points needed for a spot in the eight.

(By the way, Essendon's difficult draw was something that we noted before the season even commenced.)

Adelaide have the next best record against the finalists - which is one of the reasons their MARS Rating is above 1,000 - but a win percentage of 27% hardly screams "injustice". No other team racked up better than a 1 in 4 performance.

The generally dismal performance of the bottom 8 teams when playing teams from the top 8 hints at a fairly strong divide between the finalists and the non-finalists. This next graphic, I think, provides additional supporting evidence for this view.

Each pie depicts the win percentage that the relevant team recorded when playing teams from within the top 8 (left-hand pie) and from outside it (right-hand pie).

Scanning the left-hand pies you can see how much stronger, generally, is the performance of teams from the top 8 when playing other teams from the top 8 than is the performance of teams from outside the top 8 when playing the finalists.

The comparative performances of the two teams on either side of the finals barrier - Carlton and the Roos - is interesting. The Roos, apparently, have a better win percentage than Carlton when playing teams from within the 8 and when playing teams from outside the 8. How can that be when you consider that both teams finished with 11 wins and 11 losses this season and so must have the same overall win percentage?

It all comes down to ... the unbalanced draw (there's a topic I've not railed about for a while). Carlton have a 20% record against top 8 teams and a 75% record against bottom 8 teams, but met top 8 teams on only 10 occasions and bottom 8 teams on 12 occasions. The Roos, on the other hand, have a 25% record against top 8 teams and an 80% record against bottom 8 teams. But their proportions are reversed compared to the Blues'. The Roos played teams from the top 8 on 12 occasions and teams from the bottom 8 on only 10 occasions, and this difference in mix was just enough to have them finish on 11 wins, the same as the Blues.

(The relative difficulty of the Roos' draw when compared to the Blues' was also noted in that same blog.)

To borrow a topical term, does this give the Roos a "mandate" for a spot in the eight? Well they certainly have a stronger case for inclusion than the Blues' - particularly when you add in the fact that the Roos defeated the Blues 97-68 on the only occasion that they met this season -but does any team deserve a place in the 8 whose record against the finalists is no better than that of the teams that finished 13th and 14th?

I'd argue that neither Carlton nor the Roos truly deserve a spot in the eight - and neither does any other of the non-finalists. Leave them both out, I say, and give Sydney a bye in the 1st week of the finals.

(I did register some disappointment when the Roos missed a spot in the 8. For some time I've hoped that they would face Sydney in an important game one day and that they would pip the Swans in a tight contest on the basis of some clever tactical subterfuge. Next day, I imagined, an alert sub-editor would seize the opportunity and pen the following unforgettable headline: "Roos rues Roos' ruse". But, alas, that can never happen now.)